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If Dragon Age: Veilguard does kill Varric, it will be long overdue

Who is the face of Dragon Age? It’s a simple question with a tricky answer because there’s no obvious candidate. There’s no Commander Shepard through-line running through the series. Each game has had a different protagonist. There’s the Grey Warden in Dragon Age: Origins, Hawke in Dragon Age 2, and the Inquisitor in Dragon Age: Inquisition. And now there’s Rook in Dragon Age: Veilguard. Heck, even the game’s main companions have changed. Though there is one amongst them who could fit the bill: Varric.

Varric, a wise-cracking and hairy-chested dwarf with a crossbow named Bianca, was introduced in Dragon Age 2 as the game’s narrator and as a companion character. He’s also a central companion and character in Inquisition, and he stars in the early marketing material for Veilguard. Varric’s face apparently verifies something as Dragon Age.

There’s only one problem with this: he should be dead. I can’t look at Varric without hearing Dragon Age creator David Gaider telling me he wanted to kill Varric, first in Dragon Age 2 and then in Inquisition. This dwarf shouldn’t be alive, yet somehow he is. But for how long? That’s the question on everybody’s lips, because if you watch the debut Veilguard gameplay trailer again, you’ll see this might be his fatal third strike.

Before we go there, let’s rewind to Dragon Age 2. If you don’t know, that game revolves around Varric, who’s forced to recount the story of Hawke while being interrogated by Cassandra Pentaghast (who becomes a companion in Dragon Age: Inquisition). Thus, Varric recounts Hawke’s life from his perspective as a close friend, and the game ping-pongs between Varric talking and you playing the story out. This set-up even continues in the game’s two downloadable add-ons, Legacy and Mark of the Assassin.

Varric and Cassandra in Dragon Age 2.Watch on YouTube

But there was going to be a third add-on where this would change. This expansion was going to be called Exalted March, and here, Varric was going to finally step out from the interrogation room so we could play in the present day, so to speak. It was also here that Varric – in a climactic confrontation new villain Corypheus, introduced in Legacy – was going to die.

“So what I wanted to do with the expansion was: there’s a lot of stuff we cut and I really wanted to put a bowtie on the Dragon Age 2 story,” former lead writer David Gaider told me earlier this year while chatting about the creation of the Dragon Age world for a piece about maps

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. “It had the confrontation with Corypheus and the whole thing. We’d introduced him in a DLC, which I didn’t want to do, but we did it, so I wanted to sort of tie that off. And I wanted to kill Varric because he was the viewpoint character and I’m like, ‘This is his story, it needs to end with his death.’

“He was the unreliable narrator, right?” he added. “I felt like it had to end with him. So we had this great moment where Corypheus is using the Red Lyrium and it’s growing out of control, but [Varric is] a dwarf so he’s a little bit immune, so he’s able to do the Wrath of Khan Spock thing and get in close and destroy it. And he gets Corypheus enough so the party can take him out, but then he’s dying from Red Lyrium poisoning so there’s this nice moment with him and Hawke as Hawke says goodbye. And with his death, the story ends. And I felt that’s appropriate for Dragon Age 2’s arc.”

Exalted March, however, was never released. BioWare cancelled Exalted March to refocus the studio on new game Dragon Age: Inquisition and the move to new engine Frostbite. The expansion was “cannibalised”, as Gaider put it, talking to me, and expanded to become Inquisition. Which is how Corypheus suddenly became the main villain in Inquisition, and how Varric managed to stay alive.

The introduction to Varric in Dragon Age: Inquisition.Watch on YouTube

It didn’t stop Gaider trying to kill him again, though. “I tried to kill him in Inquisition,” he told me. “I think mainly because I didn’t get to do it in [DA2]. And everyone was like, ‘But the Inquisitor isn’t Hawke! It lacks the same meaning.’ And I was like, ‘Yeah, I guess you’re right.'”

Still, it was a difficult thing to let go of. “I was a little bit upset,” he said, “and I remember I went and said – because they wanted to start work on Dragon Age 3 immediately – ‘Well, you can make me do that, yes, and I will just be the guy in the meetings doing this [he makes a standoffish posture]. Or you can let me go home for a month or so, get this out of my system and grieve, and I will come back. And I swear, when I come back, I will be ready to go.'”

He was true to his word, but he still wasn’t entirely done trying to kill Varric. In March last year, Gaider revealed there were once plans for Corypheus to attack the Inquisition’s mountain castle base, Skyhold. “The threat of Corypheus after Haven was never truly realised,” Gaider tweeted. “An attack on Skyhold would have upped the ante. Maybe I could have killed someone finally… but instead, Corypheus remained a remote villain you chased but were rarely chased by.

“By the way,” he then added, “if you’re wondering who I would have killed in Skyhold, given the chance, the answer is obviously Varric. That dwarf was meant to die in the (cancelled) DA2 expansion and escaped his fate despite having been in my crosshairs ever since.” Varric survived again.

David Gaider left BioWare in 2016, after 17 years at the studio, and he didn’t have anything to do with the making of the fourth game, now known as Veilguard. “After Dragon Age Inquisition came out I’d already left the Dragon Age team,” he told me. And with that departure, you’d think Varric might have breathed a sigh of relief.

The Dragon Age: Veilguard gameplay trailer.Watch on YouTube

But look again at the Dragon Age: Veilguard gameplay trailer – specifically, the end of it. I’ll pick it up here from around 14 minutes in as I draw attention to what happens. At this point, Rook, Varric and team have found Solas, who’s now the villain, performing some kind of cataclysmic magic ritual.

Varric: “All right, I’ll take it from here.”

Rook: Are you sure?

Varric: Positive. You three just keep the demons off me while I talk to him.

Scout Harding: Varric, Solas isn’t going to stop just because an old friend asks nicely.

Varric: Solas needs someone to sell him another option, to help him justify changing his mind.

Rook: Come on, Varric, we didn’t come all this way just to talk to him.

Varric: He was my friend, Rook, I’ve got to try to reach him. But if he won’t listen to me, he’ll hear from Bianca.

Pillars crumble in the background and dramatic music swells as Varric moves from cover to approach Solas.

Varric: Rook, take care of the team for me.

That’s the first big tell, a rousing sequence and dramatic farewell. The action then continues as Rook looks for another way to interrupt Solas’ ritual. Varric doesn’t seem to be getting anywhere convincing Solas to stop.

Solas: The Veil is a wound inflicted upon this world. It must be healed.

Varric: By drowning the world in demons?

Solas: I have taken precautions to minimise the damage, Varric.

Varric: Minimise the-? People are dying right now. You need to listen.

Behind Solas’ back, Varric raises his crossbow Bianca.

Varric: Please.

Solas turns and destroys Bianca with a magical blast, and the crossbow tumbles down the stairway in pieces.

Solas: People are always dying. It is what they do.


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A loaded comment, perhaps? And it’s a significant moment seeing Varric’s beloved crossbow broken in two. What good will he be without it?

Rook eventually comes up with a plan to push a huge stone pillar into the magical maelstrom and disrupt Solas’ plan that way. There’s a bit more to-and-fro between Varric and Solas – “You came a long way and made a valiant effort, Varric, but this story does not end with my downfall” – and then Rook manages it. The pillar tumbles, Solas magically rips it into pieces, sending huge meteors of stone hurtling out from the explosion. Rook and party are thrown back by the force of it and Varric, suddenly, is gone. He’s not on the steps nor anywhere in sight. The trailer ends as Rook watches huge creatures appear behind Solas from the rip in the Veil.

What happened to Varric? Consider the beats outlined above: a dramatic farewell, an iconic weapon destroyed, a missing-in-action ending. I don’t think that’s subtle and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if this is fate catching up with our dwarf. Consider the heroic ending Gaider once envisaged: Hawke holding Varric in their arms after his sacrifice to defeat Corypheus – this seems like a similar thing. Perhaps what we haven’t seen yet is Varric, fatally wounded by Solas’ explosion, holding on just long enough for new hero Rook to take him in their arms. To hear Varric say he’s led a good life and made some good friends, and that he lasted longer than he ever expected (and David Gaider expected) he would. That he stood for something and that Rook should too – a passing of the mantle moment. And then, with a wide-eyed gasp, he’ll breathe his last and Varric will be no more.

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